Joyful Magic at Camp and Beyond

August 9, 2023

By Hannah "Hensch" Henschel

I was one of those kids who spent their most formative summers at my Jewish summer camp. This past June, I returned to the summer camp of my childhood to facilitate staff week training sessions. These staffers are the ones who make the magic of summer camp real for the kids.

When I arrived at my childhood home away from home, I was prepared to talk about the impact of the intense, unrelenting attacks on LGBTQ+ people in many states around the country – on the spirits and mental health of queer people of all ages, particularly on youth. As I shared supportive resources with the camp staff, many of them spoke to the impact of legislative attacks and how they experienced mental health struggles, too. When I asked what they wanted to focus on this summer, they said they wanted camp to be a place of joy, where everyone can be themselves. And they wanted to model that joy by authentically embracing and being themselves.

As this summer has progressed, I’ve heard from many camps how Keshet’s Education and Training team has helped them cultivate that much-needed joy. These camps have developed bunking policies that protect and center the needs of trans and non-binary campers, created avenues to share pronouns, and hosted Pride days at camp.

My hope is that as the summer camp season comes to a close, LGBTQ+ campers and staff will carry with them this joyful magic into the school year – a sense of pride in who they are and glorious, unabashed joy.